Category Archives: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

Top Seven Storylines to Watch as Full Throttle Fall Weekend Returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway

From Justin Bonsignore and Doug Coby fighting for their first Musket 200 win to Jimmy Hebert chasing down his first
ACT championship to Shaun Buffington looking to extend his reign as NHMS track champion, there’s no shortage of
Full Throttle Fall Weekend storylines.

LOUDON, N.H. – NASCAR returns to New England this weekend for the third annual Full Throttle Fall Weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and with it, a bevy of captivating storylines from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the American-Canadian Tour and the Granite State Legends Cars that are sure to leave every race fan on the edge of their seats until the final checkered flag falls.

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour

The 2020 season opener, originally scheduled for March 21 at South Boston Speedway, was postponed to May 30 at Myrtle Beach Speedway due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inclement weather caused the event to be rescheduled once again, and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was finally able to burn some rubber at Jennerstown Speedway on June 21.

The Tour has already made three visits to the Granite State – twice at White Mountain Motorsports Park in Woodstock and once at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester – and will be making their final 2020 New Hampshire visit Sept. 12 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to headline the third annual Full Throttle Fall Weekend with the longest-mileage race on the Tour, the Musket 200 presented by Whelen.

Dominance: To date, the 2020 season has been headlined by one driver – Justin Bonsignore – who has won three of the season’s six Whelen Modified Tour events. He earned a top-10 finish in the 2018 Musket 250 and a top-five in 2019, but has yet to land in victory lane to hoist up the coveted musket and minuteman trophy. Can the current points leader capture a win at “The Magic Mile” to continue his chase for another series championship?

Defending Winner: Five-time NHMS winner Bobby Santos III is a frequent visitor to victory lane at “The Magic Mile.” He’s won four of the last six NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at Loudon, including the 2019 Musket 250 presented by Whelen when he was filling in for Dave Sapienza who was injured earlier in the season. Saturday’s Musket 200 presented by Whelen will be his first appearance of the 2020 modified season and is his only scheduled appearance at the moment. Can he make it two Musket wins in a row?

Reigning Champion: Six-time and reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby is currently second in the points standings with a win at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park already in the bag. He earned a top-10 finish in the 2018 Musket 250 and started on the pole and earned a podium finish last year. Is 2020 the year he finally reaches victory lane at the Musket 200 presented by Whelen and bumps his overall NHMS wins to five?

American-Canadian Tour

The American-Canadian Tour is no stranger to “The Magic Mile,” making nine appearances from 2009-2016 and making its homecoming with the ACT 75 this Saturday, Sept. 12 to wrap up the on-track action for the third annual Full Throttle Fall Weekend.

Points Leader: Jimmy Hebert from Williamstown, Vt. is the current points leader for the American-Canadian Tour Late Model Series with two wins and five podium finishes during the 2020 season’s first seven events. Saturday’s ACT 75 will mark Hebert’s debut at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – will it end with a trip to victory lane?

New Hampshire Drivers: Saturday’s ACT 75 will feature three drivers from New Hampshire including Matt Anderson (Andover), currently 11th in the point standings; Bryan Kruczek (Newmarket), currently fourth in the point standings; and DJ Shaw (Center Conway), currently second in the point standings.

Granite State Legends Cars

The Granite State Legends Cars will compete in both the Road Course Series and Oval Series during the third annual Full Throttle Fall Weekend, with the Oval Series champion crowned after Saturday’s race.

Oval Series: The Oval Series has yet to race this season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, as the 2020 schedule was reshuffled a few times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Reigning NHMS track champion Shaun Buffington took both wins at White Mountain Motorsports Park – one to start the season on June 13 and another on Aug. 22 – plus a win at Claremont Motorsports Park on Sept. 6, but Luke Lebrun is giving him a run for his money, earning a win at Claremont on June 26 and another at Riverside Speedway and Adventure Park on July 4. Who will be crowned the series champion this Friday?

Road Course Series: The 2020 Road Course Series season kicked off July 5 and has completed six events on the 1.6-mile road course at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Shaun Buffington has won all six races and is well on his way to earning yet another NHMS track championship, but teammates Jack Walker and Darren Gallant aren’t making it easy on him, standing next to him on the podium every single time. Who will take the win as the Road Course Series takes on the 0.95-mile modified road course for only the second time this Saturday?

Tickets/Parking:

Tickets still remain for this weekend’s Full Throttle Fall Weekend. Adult tickets are available starting at $35 (in advance) for Saturday and just $10 on Friday at https://www.nhms.com/events/full-throttle-fall-weekend/tickets/. Kids 12 and under are just $10 on Saturday and free on Friday. Free parking will be available in the S1, S2 and S3 lots. Further details can be found on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway website.

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HOW CRIS MICHAUD SAVED THE WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR SEASON

By: Kyle Souza / Photo: Tom Morris/MyRacenews

It was all about to live up to the hype.

In February, when NASCAR’s Speedweeks concluded in Florida, including the Modified portion at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams turned their attention towards the 2020 season. A 17-race calendar, filled with prestigious events including a return to Martinsville Speedway and Jennerstown Speedway, and a debut at Iowa Speedway, had teams, fans, drivers and more ready to roll. It was preparing to be one of the best years in Whelen Modified Tour history. Then it all came to a screeching halt.

Enter COVID-19.

Stopped. Dead in the water. Delayed.

Races were postponed, some were cancelled, and ultimately, six months later, the Whelen Modified Tour season is still not fully back on track — but by the nature of a few decisions by one man — Cris Michaud — the Whelen Modified Tour season in the COVID era has been saved.

White Mountain Motorsports Park wasn’t on the original tour schedule for 2020, as a non-NASCAR sanctioned track in the mountains of New Hampshire. And with the dismal look at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park over the winter, it looked like racing at the Connecticut high-banks might never happen again.

Enter: Cris Michaud for both.

The owner and promoter of the American Canadian Tour, who took over the Late Model division following the death of the late Tom Curley, owns and promotes White Mountain Motorsports Park as well. He wasn’t planning on hosting a Whelen Modified Tour race at that bullring, but post-COVID, those plans changed quickly.

Michaud and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series Director Jimmy Wilson made a deal on the financials of it, and the tour season now has three of six races at tracks Michaud is promoting. Without those three races, the season might have never got off the ground.

Two at White Mountain, on July 4 and August 1, and Thursday’s at Thompson Speedway have all been run by Michaud.

He reached a deal with the Hoenig family, the owners of Thompson, to lease the track along with Pro All Star Series Director Tom Mayberry to keep racing alive at the Connecticut oval, just when it looked like the track might stay dark for 2020, and maybe for good.

“Hats off to them for sticking with it,” 2018 Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore said. “Hats off. We really appreciate everything Cris has done for our series. We want to show him how appreciative we are. We’re thankful.”

Ron Silk, who won Thursday’s Thompson 150, the first oval race at the track since October of last year, echoes Bonsignore’s sentiments. As a veteran of Whelen Modified Tour competition for more than 15 years, Silk has 199 starts at multiple tracks.

“I really appreciate everything Cris has done for us getting us some races,” Silk said. “It’s just the craziest year ever. It didn’t look like Thompson was trending in the right direction in the winter, so it’s definitely a bonus that Cris has taken the charge here and gotten us these races.”

Doug Coby, who has been supportive of NASCAR before with their scheduling decisions, said Thursday that Michaud picking up races is a huge risk. And that’s true.

In order to bring the Whelen Modified Tour into a track, it normally costs over $65,000 for the promoter. Due to COVID, those costs are a bit less in order to help the tracks navigate the pandemic, but it still isn’t cheap.

At White Mountain, per guidance from the state of New Hampshire, fan capacity is just 50% of the grandstand seating. At Thompson, per guidance from the state of Connecticut, grandstand seating is capped at just 25% — a small number when you’re talking about a night where Michaud and Mayberry also had to pay a fee to lease the facility, and pay the local Thompson divisions a purse.

The posted local purse was over $22,000 for the five divisions combined — based on a full field. Car counts were small, so it’s Michaud only paid out just over $12,000 of that, which helps his cause.

But running any sporting event at a reduced capacity, especially one where more people equals more revenue at the concession stands and gates, is tough. And in some cases, nearly impossible.

He’s found a way to do it.

“He’s a business man and it’s working for his business to take these risks,” six-time Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby said. “My concern for anyone with limited fans is how well do they do. Cris has definitely stepped up to the plate and that’s pretty cool. We weren’t supposed to race at any of his tracks or really be involved with him at all in 2020. He’s come in and been the promoter that’s willing to take the chance on us. I hope he’s happy with the product and with what the fans are saying. It’s a big risk.”

Right now, the only planned race Michaud has left to promote on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule is back at Thompson for the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing, October 9-11. The Whelen Modified Tour traditionally runs on Sunday afternoon, and that tradition is expected to continue in 2020.

Don’t be surprised if the Whelen Modified Tour ends up back at White Mountain, though. Anything is possible.

And expect Michaud to continue to work with Wilson and the entire NASCAR team about having the tour at his tracks in 2021 — including Thunder Road Speedway in Vermont, which Michaud also owns. He’s hoping to return to Thompson Speedway for the traditional Whelen Modified Tour races in 2020 as well, if everything goes as planned for the remainder of this year.

The remaining pieces of the Whelen Modified Tour schedule includes the Musket 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 12, a trip to Riverhead Raceway on September 19, Stafford Motor Speedway’s Fall Final on September 26, the World Series 150 at Thompson, and another trip to Riverhead on October 17.

Both Riverhead dates have not been confirmed by NASCAR, and the track is running without fans due to an executive order from New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. A source close to My Race News said it’s certain that both of those events won’t happen — but it is possible that NASCAR and the track work out a deal where one of them can.

Only time will tell if additional races are added, or any of the events planned are scrapped.

But thanks to Cris Michaud, the Whelen Modified Tour season is off the ground and running — as smooth as possible — in the middle of a pandemic.

Shorter But Still Prestigious: Musket 200 Set For Saturday at NHMS

By: Kyle Souza / Photo: Noah Watts/My Race News

It might be 50 laps shorter, but the prestige around Saturday’s Musket 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway won’t be diminished.

What once was tabbed as the longest race in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour history for the last two years has now lost 50 of its laps — which is about 50 miles at the ‘Magic Mile’ — but drivers aren’t going to do anything different when it comes down to the final laps.

It’s still a chance to win at New Hampshire and it’s still NASCAR’s Super Bowl when it comes to the Whelen Modified Tour.

“I think it will be better, it could probably be even a touch shorter,” 2018 Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore, who finished sixth and fifth the last two years, said. “I think it will take some of the riding out of it. It was great… but I think this might be a little bit more action-packed and more used to what Modified fans and drivers are accustomed to having.”

The first two years of the race haven’t disappointed. It all started when New Hampshire lost their NASCAR Cup Series date for September of 2018, and they had to figure something out to get back some of the revenue that was about to be lost. They ran the inaugural Musket 250 in 2018, with Chase Dowling winning, followed the second last year, which was won by Bobby Santos III.

“This was all part of the initial conversation with NASCAR,” David McGrath, the executive Vice President and general manager of NHMS said back in 2019. “When we made the announcement to move the September race, we wanted to create a new event with as much NASCAR in it as we could. With the long history of modifieds at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the draft, the restrictor plates, and the way they have raced here for so many years… we wanted to create a marquee race that really showcases the racing of the Modifieds and the ‘Magic Mile.’

And they’ve done every bit of it.

Chase Dowling wins the #Musket250 as it comes to a wild finish!!! #OMG#NASCAR #NWMT ##NHMSFullThrottle pic.twitter.com/usMo2K1PEt— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) September 22, 2018

The final laps in 2018 were eye-opening to say the least. Current NASCAR Cup Series star Ryan Preece and Bonsignore went barreling into turn three on the final lap racing for the lead and $25,000, and both ended up wrecked in the outside wall, handling the lead and the win to Dowling, his first career. Last year, Santos edged Jon McKennedy by just a few car lengths at the line.

#NWMT How about that last lap @NHMS?

The battle to claim the #Musket250 🏁 pic.twitter.com/CorNA0uVCh— NASCAR Roots (@NASCARRoots) September 21, 2019

As a 250-lap race, it paid $25,000 to win. Now, as a 200-lap event, it will pay $20,000 to pick up the checkered flag — with more than $150,000 in posted awards throughout the field. The advertised entry blank for the race given to teams shows a $12,000 prize for second and $8,000 in winnings for third.

RACING-REFERENCE: Previous NWMT Races at NHMS

The entry list, usually released on Monday by NASCAR, will include a stout list of regulars set to compete for the big prize. Bonsignore, who holds a 18-point lead over Doug Coby in the championship standings entering the race, is one of the favorites, with three wins already this year. Coby, who opened his own team at the beginning of the year, has one victory in the first six races himself. Both are previous winners at New Hampshire but would love to add the Musket 200 to their resume.

Bobby Santos III, who hasn’t made a start on the Whelen Modified Tour since Thompson last October, will return driving a second car for Dave Sapienza. Names like Craig Lutz, Jon McKennedy, Chris Pasteryak, Sapienza, Matt Swanson and more are also expected. There could also be a surprise, or two.

The first two years the race averaged about 32 cars, and the number is expected to be at, or a bit below, that amount.

Originally, the ARCA Menards Series East was scheduled to compete as part of the Saturday schedule, but they have since been eliminated. It leaves the Musket 200 to take the green flag at 12 p.m., with the American Canadian Tour also making their return to New Hampshire for their own 75-lap feature, slated for approximately 2:30 p.m.

Teams will practice and qualify for both races on Friday afternoon and evening.

The Whelen Modified Tour Musket 200 will air live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, just like the first six races of the season did. It will also be available on replay and will air tape-delayed on NBCSN at a later date.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is allowing fans for the event, and tickets are on sale through NHMS.com. All grandstand tickets that will be sold are required to sit in the specific seat to ensure social distancing is followed. Masks will be required for entry any part of the facility but once fans are seated, socially distances in the grandstands, masks are not required.

Camping reservations are also available for race fans and teams.